NEW CITY – The Rockland County Legislature Tuesday night voted on three separate resolutions pressing both federal and state lawmakers in Albany to implement additional gun control and mental health legislation, including amendments to the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act.
Another proposal, which failed in an eight to seven vote, would have formally requested state and federal action beyond the SAFE act, which set stringent standards for firearm purchases in New York State, banned assault weapons, required background checks for all gun purchases, and banned high-capacity magazines.
The referral also requests budgetary provisions for programs such as social work and guidance for communities, counseling in schools, and school resource officer programs, a position taken partly in response to $1.6 billion in funding cuts to state mental health services since 2009.
Many of the recommendations came from the Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents, which has taken a strong position for gun regulation and mental health oversight which they claim would prevent school violence.
Though the measure supported further restrictions, it did not constitute controls themselves, being only a formal request. Still, the hearing drew significant attention from the public, where local gun owners and Second Amendment advocates turned out to oppose new gun control measures suggested in the measure.
Among the speakers in the public comment portion was John Pinto of the Fraternal Order of the Shield, who made an oft repeated point that gun laws threatened constitutional safeguards while presenting no solutions to underlying issues of crime.
“We all know that this law went through because of Connecticut, a horrible tragedy, but these laws do nothing to stop them,” Pinto maintained.
Legislator Frank Sparaco was one of the most vocal opponents of the law, which he felt reflected SAFE in being hasty and uninformed. Sparaco called for a removal of several sections of the resolution advocating the closure of the gun show loophole and supporting a nationwide ban on assault weapons, and punishing gun dealers for “irresponsible” sales.
“This is a very important issue that you’re moving forward with, and when a lot of people spoke today, they used terms that I know a lot of you don’t know,” Sparaco said.
Several legislators supported the measure, including Harriet Cornell, who emphasized the sections of the resolution pressing for school resource officer programs and other initiatives to address mental health needs.
In addition, another component passed 10 to four providing another win for gun advocates. The referral formally opposes certain sections of the act calls for a re-evaluation, including public hearings.
Among the concerns and suggestions raised in the resolution are exemptions for active and retired police from the seven round magazine capacity restrictions, “common sense” exemptions for purchases such as law enforcement training, a clearer definition of “assault weapons,” and local law enforcement inclusion in designs of school safety plans, rather than just involvement from state agencies
The county action also contains a provision urging the state to keep pistol permit certification in the hands of state rather than county police, the argument being that county certification would constitute a burdensome unfunded mandate on the county.